Monday, December 31, 2007

Email from a gay teenager

While I was away on my business trip at the start of December, I received the following email from one of my readers:

Dear GB,

I've been an avid reader of your blog since I came across it last year. I think it's very true to the gay culture and relationships. I never ever thought I'll be writing to you about my problem.

I'm 19, not out, never been in a relationship before and currently confused about two things.

1. I met this guy on gaydar when I was 17. We chatted a great deal back then and even shared a lot of personal stuff with each other. We're both not out and he's a a couple of years senior to me. Some people might think it's sick because I'm wasn't even 18 but his intentions were genuine. He was a very genuine guy, very nice and he never pressured me into anything. He gave me his number and this led to us becoming texting and chatting buddies. However, come my exams I told him I probably won't be able to chat or text to him whatsoever because of my exams - the real reason is because I'm such a coward and too young to know my priorities in life. After exams, our contact went back to normal. However, I feel like during that time, I shared too much with him such as my health issues and etc. He then told me "We're never going to meet are we? You're too open to me." I replied that that's nonsense and we'll still meet when I'm ready. I then moved from my rural life in the countryside to the big city that is London. Changes happened in his life too. He moved from the countryside to another town. He came out to his friends, and was career unsure as well. While I was in uni, I kinda lost contact with him. However, one day, I caught him online so we chatted for a bit. Then, I found out that he's going out with someone else. Same age as me, in a more prestigious university, different course but ultimately what I want to be in the future. I felt kinda heartbroken. Maybe it's that thing that people want something if they can't have it. I don't think it's the case for me. I just realised in that moment on how close he really is to me and how much I felt for him. After this, I didn't really talk to him much. However, one time, I got so drunk that I called him and asked him how he's doing, whether he's still going out with that guy and I asked him to break it up....I know, it's bad! I sent him an apology email the following day. Didn't get a reply. After about a year, I ended up going to his town to visit a friend and again, I phoned him because I was intoxicated. I just asked how's he doing and if he's still going out with his guy. I think he said he's ok and yes he is. I hung up....VERY RUDE of me. Following morning, he called my phone. Shakingly I answered it, asked him who it was and said he got the wrong number. I'm such a jackass I know, but somehow, I kept thinking that he's the one. We shared a lot of things and I really felt close to him. It's so weird because I never actually met him in person ever! I feel like I'm such a jackass to him and my actions such as drunk calling are very rude and unacceptable.

Here's the snag though, I came across a link last week which he gave me last year. It's a link of a little village he told me he would like to take me to. It brought mixed emotions to me. I always thought he's the one. He's my Mr. Big as in "Sex in the city". He's the only one who gets me, and who listens to me whatever I tell him even though it's boring and it's just the agony of my life. Thing is, we had a great connection and I always asked myself what if we actually meet up, and went out in a committed relationship? This kind of questions made me ask myself whether I should contact him and ask him for his forgiveness and to start from a clean slate.

2. Problem no. 2 is. That I started seeing this guy a month ago. We went out on loads of dates. We have a good thing going on. A bit of chemistry. But I don't really feel like he's that interested in me. He always say yes when I ask him to go out but I just don't think he makes an effort at all. He rarely texts me or calls me, he never dresses up for dates, we always go for cheap and free stuff. He's always the one who talks and he never asked me questions about myself. I felt like I'm drifting apart from him because I went back home for 5 days and he didn't even sent a message asking me how I'm doing. Is he worth my time?

Sorry for the long email. Hope you find it in your time to read it.

I replied immediately to say that I'd be happy to give him some advice, although at the time there were 3 other 'Dear GB' emails to answer before his one. Although I always try and do a good job answering these emails, unfortunately I can't ever promise to answer quickly because I do have lots of other commitments.

About a week after the first email arrived, he sent me another email, with an update on his situation.

Hey GB. just an update. I called the guy on my first problem. He's still seeing someone yet I think I'm fine with it now. I really think that we could be good friends for a long time and I really don't mind that he's seeing someone else

As for the second guy, I texted him asking him if he wants to go for a movie or something. He texted back 3 hours later saying he can't because he's going for drinks with a friend. However, I did see him on gaydar that night....Definitely not worth my time.

Even though the reader seems happy with his two problems now, I replied to say that I thought it was still worth doing a post for him, because other people may be in similar situations so reading about his experiences might help them.

It was the reader's first problem that seems the most interesting to me, and the one that might be of most use to other gay teenagers who've not come out. Regarding his second problem, I would have told the reader to look elsewhere anyway, because I think the fact that the guy made no effort to contact the reader was a very clear signal that the guy wasn't really interested in him.

I think situations like the reader's first problem are quite common when guys first realise that they're gay. People can be very vulnerable in that situation. The guy that the reader got chatting to online was the first person who the reader was open with about his sexuality, and because the guy was also gay he was obviously very supportive. This naturally made the reader feel extremely close to this guy. However in situations like these the emotional bonds that develop are often unequal. Probably because the reader wasn't the first person that this guy came out to, the guy didn't feel as close to the reader as the reader felt to the guy. Having got into this situation, whatever he did the reader was likely to be let down by this guy at some point, simply because his feelings were stronger and his expectations where higher than those of the other guy.

The first time anyone is attracted to another person, the feelings of love are new and hard to understand, and it's impossible to be objective about the situation. Straight boys and girls frequently go through all this with each other in an open environment while they progress through school. But gay people often don't feel able to be open about their desires, and consequently aren't able to work out how to handle all this so easily. As far as the reader here is concerned, this guy who he's never met was effectively his 'first love', which is why he felt so upset when he found out that this guy is having a relationship with someone else.

By coincidence, I was surprised to learn while visiting my sister last weekend that similar emotional situations occur with young horses! She currently has just two young horses in her stables, one male and one female, and when I asked to try riding one of them she ended up bringing both of them along to the field. However, only one of them had been kitted out with a saddle.

"Why have you brought both horses?" I asked innocently.

"They get very restless and difficult to handle when they're separated," she explained to me.

"Really, how come?"

"Well they're quite young, and being the only two horses in my stables, they basically fall in love with each other!"

Anyway, going back to the situation with this reader, his bad behaviour when drunk is understandable, although he's still right to be ashamed of himself. But I don't see any reason why the reader and this guy can't eventually end up being friends. However, given that this guy now has a boyfriend, I think it would be best for the reader to delay meeting him until he has a boyfriend too. Once the reader has a boyfriend, he'll be able to be much more objective about the situation. A meeting of two couples is such circumstances is likely to be a success, even though none of them will have ever met face to face before!

Do any other readers have any thoughts on these matters?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Crackers

Having Christmas crackers when eating a traditional Christmas lunch in the UK is an old British custom. But every year I wonder why this pointless custom persists. Each cracker typically contains a cheap (mostly useless) gift, a paper hat to wear while eating the lunch, and a joke which isn't very funny. I usually reckon that the only useful item is the hat, because wearing the silly hats tends to put everyone in a party mood which makes the event more fun :-).

This year, the 'jokes' I've encountered in Christmas crackers seemed particularly inane, although I admit that I hadn't heard any of them before:

Q. Why don't ducks tell jokes when they're flying?
A. Because they would quack up!

Q. How do snails keep their shells shiny?
A. They use snail varnish!

Q. Who is the most famous married woman in America?
A. Mrs. Sippi

Q. What has a bed but does not sleep, and a mouth but does not speak?
A. A river

Unfortunately, smutty jokes aren't allowed, because at a Christmas lunch children are likely to be present. But smutty Christmas jokes would be much more fun :-). Something like:

Q. What does a Christmas tree and priest have in common?
A. Their balls are just for decoration!

Can anyone do any better than that?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Who goes to bed naked?

Man in PyjamasLast night I was lying naked in bed next to boyfriend number 1, waiting for Christmas, when I suddenly remembered an old Simpsons episode (The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace, Series 10, Episode 2). Homer had just decided to become an inventor like Thomas Edison, and in his new role his first act was to throw away his pyjamas because he'd heard that Edison always slept naked too! As do I of course :-).

I'm not sure whether this anecdote about Edison is true or not, but perhaps it's fictitious because a google search fails to find any corroborating evidence. In any case, once I started thinking about the subject, I started wondering how many guys there are like me. Ever since I left home to go to university, I've almost always slept completely nude. Even if I'm in a situation where I could come face to face with someone who'd be embarrassed to see me naked, I'll still sleep naked but keep some sports shorts handy, so I've got something to wear in case I need to get out of bed.

For most of our relationship, boyfriend number 1 has also slept naked in bed next to me. But he started wearing pyjamas as soon as I told him about boyfriend number 2. Occasionally boyfriend number 2 will sleep naked with me, but often he'll come to bed with some underwear on, perhaps some undershorts or sometimes undershorts and a vest. I've never spent a night with boyfriend number 3, but my guess is that he would sleep naked with me if the occasion ever arises, simply because we'll often doze naked together after activities.

But why do guys wear anything in bed? I reckon it's so much nicer and more intimate cuddling up to the guy next to me in bed when we're both naked. Anyway, in a small attempt to investigate this issue, I've set up a poll to find out what we all wear in bed so please vote. All comments welcomed as part of this investigation, especially comments explaining why naked isn't best!

Update: Poll results

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Email from a gay student who enjoys playing rugby

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Best GLBT UK Blog :-)

Verve Weblog Awards 2007Dear Readers,

Thank you so much for voting for me to such an extent that I won a 2007 GLBT Verve Award in the category of "Best GLBT UK Blog" :-).

All my love to you all,

GB xxx

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Whenever I log on to gaydar, the web site always presents me with a list of the guys who I've bookmarked that are currently online. There are two categories of bookmarks, namely 'friends' or 'favourites', although for a long time gaydar user like me the distinction has become a bit blurred. Some guys in my 'favourites' category are definitely more friends (or boyfriends!) these days, and some guys in my 'friends' I hardly know!

A good example of a guy who's in my 'friends' category, who in all honestly I hardly know, is the guy D who lives in New York. Although I haven't been in contact with him for over two years, he still logs on to gaydar occasionally, so sometimes I log on and spot that he's logged in too. I never contact him though, because there doesn't seem to be any reason to get in touch. But I always enjoy remembering the happy week when we met, keeping each other's company in the evenings and cuddling up at night.

At one point last weekend, I spotted that D was logged in when I logged in, but for some reason I went further than I usually do and actually clicked on his icon to bring up his profile. I was hoping that it would give me a clue as to how he's getting on these days, and what he's up to. But instead, there was a poem on his profile which really struck a cord with me. Although it was a long poem, there was a simple punchline: "Happiness is a journey, not a destination".

I think this is very true. One shouldn't plan to be happy in the future because that won't work, instead happiness comes from enjoying the things that we do every day. This insight is probably compatible with Bhutan's concept of Gross National Happiness, because Gross National Happiness is about quality of life and that relates to what people experience every day.

In any case, I decided to make a list of the things that make me happy. I don't know if this is already a bloggers meme, but if not, I reckon it's a good candidate to become one :-). What I've done below is to list, in descending order of enjoyment, the ten things that make me feel happiest.

So here we go, starting with the thing that makes me feel the happiest, my list is as follows:
  • Cuddling up and falling asleep with another guy (without sexual activity), especially when he's a boyfriend. I've said it before, but I always sleep badly if I have to sleep on my own!

  • Socialising, especially with friends. However, the greatest happiness of this type is catching up with really old friends that I haven't seen for years.

  • Sexual activities with boyfriends :-).

  • Creativity and achievement. Either at work, which might mean a good solution to a client's problem, or at play, such as writing a good post for this blog.

  • A good story that stirs my emotions, whether it's a book, a film or a theatre play.

  • Recognition from others for one's creativity and achievements :-).

  • Holidays and travelling to new places.

  • Wine. Sharing a good bottle with friends, or collecting good bottles to share with friends in the future.

  • Invigorating gym workouts.

  • Cruising and sexual activities with new guys, or guys who're not (yet?) boyfriends. This definitely makes me feel happy when I end up meeting a nice guy, but of course for every prince that one finds one has had to kiss a few frogs along the way, which is why this is bottom of the list!
Does anyone can else want to play?

Update 3-Jan-2008: I did a post today about "having sex" versus "making love". One of the things I've realised is that the above list should talk about making love, not sexual activities!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Only one voting day left!

It's now a week and a half after the voting started in the 2007 GLBT Verve Weblog Awards and I don't seem to be winning in my category :-(. But with only a day to go, looking underneath at the website which handles the voting it seems that I'm only about 5 votes behind the leader! Of course I don't care whether I win or not, but just in case I'm lying, if you haven't already voted why not visit that web site now and cast a vote for me :-).Verve Weblog Awards

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas cards

Christmas treeI always like to buy birthday and Christmas cards for boyfriends that actually have the word 'boyfriend' on them. But it's so hard. Firstly there's the problem of not getting a card which implies heterosexuality. And then the problem is that the wording is almost always things like "To my boyfriend", or "To my wonderful boyfriend", or perhaps "To my special boyfriend". I reckon the wording "my boyfriend" implies that there's only one, so most of these cards just don't work for a guy like me who has more than one boyfriend! Cards with things like "To the one I love", or "To my one and only" are even worse from this point of view.

In the end I've managed to find a simple card that just said "Brilliant boyfriend" on it, which seems perfect for boyfriend number 1. Whatever else the situation ends up being between us, I'm never going to deny that he has a lot of brilliant and adorable characteristics!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Charity suggestions welcome

For a while now, I’ve had an account with the Charities Aid Foundation. Each month, a fraction of my pre-tax salary gets siphoned off into this account, which means that I can make donations to any registered UK charity in a tax-efficient manner. This is the account that I used to write the cheque for czechOUT recently, when he asked me to sponsor him to raise money for Leukaemia Research.

Christmas treeThroughout the year, I use the same account whenever friends or family ask me to sponsor them, as long as the end beneficiary is a UK charity. However, a bit of a surplus has built up in this account, and since it’s Christmas I think it would be best to distribute the money to worthy causes. Left to my own devices, I’d probably donate to charities like the Terrance Higgins Trust, the charity for homeless people Crisis , and Oxfam. But does anyone have any better ideas? I’d also be willing so sponsor any other bloggers if they’re involved in any events to raise money for UK charities. All suggestions welcome :-).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Email from a gay adolescent en pleine crise existentielle

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a young gay reader who's currently living in the USA:

Dear GB,

I would imagine that you are becoming a bit fatigued by this type of letter, but I have a situation that is not too unlike that of the previous emailer in existential crisis: I'm an even younger gay man and I feel like all the paths in my life are dead ends because of my inability to reconcile my sexuality with my upbringing... I would really appreciate any insight that you could offer...

How to unveil the particularities of my, well I'm graduating very soon from a top-tier Ivy League university with multiple degrees (social science, language, maths). My youth in Manhattan was one of private ballet classes, Japanese calligraphy lessons and weekend Paris trips to study "the trauma of Haussmannization" while reading Baudelarian poetry,etc.; I also had a long music career that ended with diplomas in piano and violin performance from a prestigious New York school at the age of seventeen. At present, I speak six languages fluently (English and another four European, plus Japanese), and a number of others conversationally. I would imagine that I come from a relatively wealthy background; in addition to their equity holdings, my parents own outright a portfolio of properties of high standing in Manhattan, San Francisco, South Ken and Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

When I'm not summoned to my parents' place in London, I spend my free time roaming around Paris and Milan, raiding the boutiques on the Faubourg Saint-Honoré and the Gucci, Via Monte NapoleoneVia Monte Napoleone. Afternoons are passed reading Proust, drinking café crèmes, smoking like a fiend, managing my stock portfolio, and composing literary criticism. My close friends (and there are few) are wealthy New-Yorkaises, Parisiennes, and Londoniennes -- that is to say, all female cosmopolites (who will one day marry rich, successful men). I am described as tall, "beautiful", and having a quasi-anorexic frame; in my rather limited experience, I have found that I almost exclusively attract men who seek to dominate me sexually.

With regard to my future career, I feel rather lost. (I should add here that I just had my twentieth birthday.) My father worked for an investment bank in New York and my only sibling runs a London-based hedge fund. I've been considering banking as a career path, and although I find the work interesting enough, I don't know if it will provide me long-term personal fulfillment. (I also have serious hesitations as my homosexuality, physique, and effete nature will certainly limit how far I can go in that realm; your previous posts have been revelatory in this regard.) That said, I do want to be financially independent at some point, and I know that this is the only way for me to do it while maintaining an acceptable standard of living.

And so, despite what appears to be an ideal life filled with literary creation, clandestine sexual escapades with New York firemen, and large-scale consumption of luxury goods, the paradox I confront on a daily basis is that I detest the background that gave me my privileged existence.

I strongly reproach my parents for having raised me improperly; thanks to them, I know next to nothing about popular culture and at this point, do not think that I will ever be able to assimilate into it. It is therefore difficult for me to make friends who do not come from similar milieux. As such, I have *no gay friends* -- gay people my age from similar backgrounds tend to stay hidden in the closet, daring only to peek out every once in a while. Worse, my sexuality makes it impossible for me to integrate into the traditional European and American social worlds to which my parents (and my girlfriends) belong. I am on the periphery of society both sexually and socially...what should I do to make sense out of my life? Would banking be the right decision for me, or would I be better suited to academia or to government? Should I seek out men in their thirties for a relationship?

P.S. I absolutely adore your blog, even though the level of sexual promiscuity sometimes disquiets me. The disintegration of your relationship with boyfriend #1 provokes me to think that my dream of one day loving and being loved ("aimer et être aimé") is unrealizable as a gay person in the 21st century.

Without doubt, I thought that this was one of the most beautifully written emails that I've ever received. However, the reader's level of accomplishment with e.g. six languages spoken fluently and multiple degrees seemed almost impossible for someone who's only just turned 20 years old, so I had doubts about the authenticity of the story.

As a result, I ended up exchanging several emails with this reader, and I also forwarded the email to the wealthy young guy who sought my advice recently when he was unsure about his future. Unlike me, he didn't have any big doubts about the reader's achievements, although he was jealous of the sexual escapades with New York firemen! However, he went on to say:

I do understand his concern. As a man of 20, I was exclusively closeted. I'm still not "out" in the raving queen sense now either. I am, at least, rather straight acting, and keep my sexuality to myself at work. Friends that I care to tell do know. He will probably find, like me, that men get a lot better as they become more secure in their footing, however, and he should look forward to finding things easier as he gets towards 25 than worse. Seeking men towards 30 is not a bad idea, but my experience is that this is hard. A lot of serious and successful older guys of that age will (from my experience) have reservations about committing time and effort to someone so young. Further, marrying a rich man is fine, but I don't believe even he expects any of his girlfriends will be that happy.

As for career. Tell him to do what motivates him. I actually enjoy my life. Work has become a lot better over the last two to three weeks as I realise why I do it - i.e the fact that it gives me validation - respect from my peers, a sense of purpose, independence - which is much better than the validation we get from sex or shopping!

I also sent the reader an email querying his achievements, but his answers raised even more questions in my mind, so in the end I've decided not to worry about authenticity. One thought is that perhaps the reader defines language fluency at a lower competence level than me. But in any case, I have met a few geniuses in my life, so I know that extremely talented people like this do exist. If they're gay and from a wealthy background too, I would expect them to write emails exactly like this reader did.

So what advice can I give this reader? He can't reconcile his sexuality with his upbringing, he feels lost in terms of his future career, he detests his background, and doesn't know what to do to make sense of his life!

Focusing on career to start with, I feel that banking would be a mistake. At the moment I think he's too sensitive to thrive in that environment. He saw the full response that I got from the wealthy young guy to whom I forwarded his email, and some of the things that were in the response upset him. But given that he's got multiple degrees and fluency in six languages, an academic or government career could suit him. But whatever career path he chooses, he needs to find projects that genuinely challenge him, so that success will give him the validation that the other wealthy young guy gets from his career. His language abilities strike me as outstanding, especially being fluent in Japanese, but just relying on those skills (e.g. by becoming a translator of some sort) would be a mistake because it wouldn't challenge him. Finding an appropriate career which allows him to make his own way in the world will help him come to terms with his privileged background.

However if he really wants to grow up and change his life for the better, I think he should do something a bit more radical. He implies that since early childhood he's been in full time education, but that's coming to an end soon, so now would be a good time to take a year out and do something different. Travelling around the world on the cheap would be good, perhaps staying in youth hostels. He could learn even more languages :-). Wat Xieng Thong temple, Luang Prabang, Laos Another idea would be volunteering to do some kind of charity work somewhere for a year, something like Community Service Volunteers that we've got in the UK but perhaps he could find something abroad. Hopefully he'd be a bit less sensitive after that kind of experience. Or head off to Laos and take a course in Massage therapy. I'm a big fan of Laos because when I visited in 2005, I got the impression that in general the people there are very spiritual and emotionally sorted. Since he's only 20 years old, any career that he may choose can wait, especially because he's not sure what direction to go in. It was good advice that Trevor gave the previous wealthy young guy who emailed me, namely to do something every day which scares you.

This advice would apply if this reader was straight. The fact that he's gay is a further complication, but I think that he should first come to terms with his upbringing and background before worrying about that. He says that he almost exclusively attracts men who seek to dominate him sexually, although he doesn't say whether he enjoys that or not! In any case, he should be much more optimistic about finding a guy to fall in love with one day. I also wouldn't say that my relationship with boyfriend number 1 is disintegrating. I'd say that it's changing, that we still love each other, but just because we love each other doesn't necessarily mean that a boyfriend-boyfriend relationship is correct for us at this stage in our lives.

Anyway, do any other reader have any thoughts for this reader?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Recruiting gay graduates into Investment Banking

Savoy hotel, LondonIn mid November, I received an email from a gay undergraduate in the UK asking for me for some advice, because he'd been invited to an event in London aimed at encouraging guys like him to apply for jobs in investment banking. Some aspects of investment banking do have quite a straight alpha-male reputation, so I think it's a good idea that such events are organised to counteract that image.

I had to laugh when I read his email in detail though, because it WAS the Alex carton: the guy wanted any thoughts that I had which would help him get an internship at an investment bank for next summer! He was also interested in any advice I had on what he should wear for the London event.

The truth is that although I work in a bank, I'm a long way from the recruitment process, so I don’t really have much idea what anyone has to do to get an internship. But at least I was able to give him some advice on what to wear. Many banks are 'Smart Casual' on their trading floors these days, so I think 'Smart Casual' is acceptable IF one can be confident without wearing a suit. If not, wearing a suit is always safe. However I reckon that if people aren't used to wearing a suit then they can look awkward in them, especially if it's a new suit, and in that case 'Smart Casual' might be better after all.

My reply to this guy would have been the end of the story, however a week later I got a phone call from an ex-colleague who's also gay. Once the main point of his phone call had been dealt with, we start chatting about getting together to catch up with each other.

"So are you going to the gay interbank drinks next week?" I ask him.

Inside and out logo"Actually I can't make it this month," he replies, "but I'll tell you what, are you free the following Wednesday? The bank I work for is involved in this event aimed at encouraging gay undergraduates to apply for jobs in banks. Would you be interested in going to the cocktail reception afterwards? All you have to do is to chat to the students and tell them that being openly gay in a bank isn't a problem these days! I'll be there too of course, so we could catch up afterwards :-)."

In fact, I probably wouldn't have gone except for the email that I'd received the previous week. I reckon that I probably should know a bit more about the recruitment process, so getting peripherally involved in the recruitment of gay undergraduates seems like a good idea.

On the day of the event, although the students are there for most of the afternoon, I don't have to be there until the cocktails start at 7:30pm so I've got time to visit my gorgeous Japanese masseur beforehand :-). Afterwards, feeling suitably refreshed, I make my way down to the Lancaster Ballroom in the Savoy hotel where the event is being hosted.

Inside and Out event in progressI arrive while the last session is still in progress. Each table is being hosted by a gay investment banker with a different type of job, and the students are rotating around the tables to find out a bit about each job. I can't see my ex-colleague anywhere so I get chatting to one of the other gay bankers there.

"It's interesting to see what students look like these days," I start, "and what they wear to this kind of event!"

Of course, I'm trying to work out whether I gave the guy who emailed me the right advice! Probably about 80% of the students seem to be wearing suits. But then as I'd expected, quite a few of them look a little uncomfortable in them!

"And they also don't look as young as I expected," I continue, "I'd thought that I'd feel like their grandfather, but for some reason they don’t look quite as fresh-faced as I'd been imagining".

Before much of a conversation can develop with this guy, the students start leaving the tables and since we both feel we should have a go at chatting to them, we decide to head in opposite directions.

During the course of the evening I probably end up chatting to about a dozen students. And not one of them asks me about what it's like being gay while working on a bank's trading floor. Perhaps that was covered at length during the course of the afternoon. However, at one point I also get talking to one of the organisers:

"So are you enjoying the event?" he asks me, just after a couple of students that I'd been talking to head off to get themselves another drink. "I'm involved in organising this event so do let me know if you've got any feedback :-)."

"Yes I am enjoying it actually," I admit. "It's a long time since I was a student, so it's interesting to connect again with what going on at entry level."

"Actually this event has four purposes," he tells me. "Helping the banks recruit obviously! But then it's also a networking opportunity for you guys who work for all the banks. Thirdly, it's a dating service, and lastly ...."

"A dating service?" I say in disbelief, "Surely all the students come here for career purposes?"

But then, as though on cue, one of the younger looking students suddenly comes up to us both.

"So how are you getting on?" the organiser asks the student, "are you glad I encouraged you to come?"

"Oooo, it's very good," says the student, barely containing his excitement, "I was just chatting to this really cute banker who works in sales or something, and look, he's given me his business card :-))."

With that, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out the guy's card as though he's won a minor trophy. All the students that I'd been talking to previously seemed very sensible, but then I guess there are bound to be a few like this guy who get caught up in the drama of it all!

Even though I haven't found out the fourth purpose of the event, I decide to leave them to it and head off to find my ex-colleague who I can now see standing on his own. People are starting to leave so we decide to head off too.

The morning after, before I go to work, I email the student who originally told me about the event to see what he thought about it.

GB: Hi again, I actually ended up going along to the event that you asked me about. I'll do a post on it at some point, but I'd be interested to hear what you thought, so as to get a student's perspective.

A couple of hours later, his reply arrives:

Student: I thought it was pretty good. The panel bit dragged on a little, and some of the questions seemed a little obvious, but the guy from Stonewall was great. The 5 min Q&A things were really good as it let you have a broad overview of a number of areas of a number of banks, and it was cool to see some senior people there too.

He certainly sounds like a satisfied customer :-). However there's one question I have to ask him:

GB: Glad to hear you got something out of it. But did u wear a suit in the end?

Student: I did wear a suit, it doesn't fit well as I bought it a few years ago but at least unlike most of the students and a surprisingly high number of the bankers it doesn't look like it was made from polyester. It was good advice they gave in the talks, though most of the stuff about interviews could probably be summed up by them saying "don't be a fuck up"!

I laugh at such a simple, direct, concise, but accurate summary of how to do well in interviews. If that guy wants a job in investment banking, I feel sure that he'll get one!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Is he or isn't he?

A couple of weeks ago, I received the following email from a reader who had previously emailed me a few times before. But this time he was asking for some advice:

Dear GB,

Where I work there is kind of an unspoken "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding sexual orientation and I'm fairly closeted there myself. I remember reading in one of your posts that you are not quite comfortable with the idea of sex with colleagues or co-workers. However, I am interested in dating a few guys at work whom I think might be gay (no wedding ring, little spoken about their personal lives i.e. wives or girlfriends, emit "gay aura"). There is no conflict of interests involved.

In a situation like this what's the best way to go about doing that? I've thought of asking them out as a friend then popping the question later.

Also, are there still straight guys out there these days who will be offended if someone thought that they were gay? The problem is if this happened to me, I will still see them around at work which isn't ideal. I guess I'm still very close to white belt level at my workplace in this sense (Is the second installment of your gay lifestyle confidence post on the way?).

And while we're on this topic, do you have any tips on spotting gay guys at public places e.g. gyms (not the sauna!), public transport, supermarkets, non-gay-only pubs, on the street? I'm interested in the types like myself that put less of their sexuality on display but with metrosexuals and single straight men everywhere these days it's becoming a real challenge!

I have a few pointers of my own but I have to say they don't have a proven track record.

- I invite or search for these guys on social networking sites. Problem is some won't join or leave their profiles empty with respect to orientation and keep people guessing (though if he has something to hide then he's more likely to be gay).

- I have heard of the eye contact way of expressing interest. But I always think it's rude to stare at people in public so when I look into a guy's eyes I tend to look away very quickly which sends out the complete opposite signal. Should I unlearn my good manners?

- There's a trick with public transport if one is seated across from the other guy. I can pretend to sleep then peep or open my eyes to see if he is checking me out. This only works if I'm the most attractive guy in the carriage!

Any ideas you have about this would be great.


This guy must have been one of my readers for quite a while, because it was July 2006 when I mentioned that I thought sex between co-workers was a bad idea. Of course, that was the same post where I went on to admit that I'd met a guy who worked in the same bank as me, and then in the subsequent post I admitted that I'd got to know him a bit better!

None the less, I must advise the reader NOT to take his attraction to any of the guys that he fancies in the office any further. This isn't a case of "Don't do as I do, do as I tell you to!" because to this day, I haven't ever seen The Man from Fridae during my daily work routines. In my case, it's because I work for a big bank and so we actually work in different buildings. That isn't the case with the reader who sent me the email because he has become attracted to a few guys having seen them wandering around his office.

I think the main reason that the everyday advice is that heterosexuals should avoid liaisons with work colleagues relates to what can happen if things don't work out. Needing to avoid each other, worrying about whether the other person is spreading any inappropriate rumours about competence in the bedroom, there's a huge minefield here which is easily avoided by simply not dating people from the office. And as the reader points out, with gay dating there's the added complication that the other guy might not be gay! I certainly do think that there are still straight guys around who could be offended. If one can make a straight guy think that being fancied by a gay guy is a compliment (i.e. "I'm so sexy that even other guys can't resist me") then a proposition probably wouldn't cause offence, but not all straight guys will take it like that.

Having said all that, if the reader wants to ignore my sound advice(!), I reckon the best way to go about it is to find excuses to talk to the guys that he's attracted to and ask them what they've been doing away from the office. In particular, the reader could mention well known gay places that he's been to recently, as a way of coming out to them on an individual basis. From their response, and if they're interested in him, I'd expect them to reciprocate and mention gay places that they've been to. After that, socialising with each other in gay venues would be a natural step.

One concern, though, is that the reader says that he's still still quite closeted. It's common for closeted gay guys, who're not searching for gay friends and lovers, to be attracted to straight guys that they meet regularly. In this situation though, the best thing to do is to come out a bit more and actively start looking for gay guys in places where they're likely to be found (i.e. gay venues, Internet, etc)!

Moving on, the reader is quite right in that I promised another installment about the gay lifestyle black belt, and at present it's still very much on the drawing board. Apologies to all my readers for this. I guess I've had too much other stuff to blog about, but in the near future I'll try and sort this out.

The last section of the reader's email is great fun. How indeed to tell gay guys from straight guys in a metrosexual urban environment?

I like the idea of looking at social networking sites because if any relevant information is divulged, it should be reliable. But the reader really does have to "unlearn his good manners"! Eye contact is vital to cruising in public. I reckon it's particularly telling in gyms and especially gym changing rooms, because straight guys never catch each other's eyes in that situation. Elsewhere, catching another guy's eye coupled with a smile is an expression of interest which straight guys will naturally want to avoid repeating. So if you catch a guy's eye and smile a few times and they reciprocate each time, I reckon they're definitely interested. Actually if they do that, I reckon they're interested even if they define themselves as straight!

One last thought. If one walks past a nice looking guy in the street without managing to catch his eye, it's worth walking a couple more paces and then looking back over your shoulder. Because if he noticed you too, he'll probably do the same, and then you CAN catch each other's eye!

But do any other readers have any ideas for working out whether a guy is gay?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

GLBT Verve Weblog Awards

What a nice surprise it was for me to wake up this morning and find an email in my inbox telling me that I'm a finalist in the second annual Verve Weblog Awards :-).Verve Weblog AwardsTo vote for me, click here. The voting page seems to be quite graphics heavy so it takes a while to load, but once it's loaded, you'll find me in the the 'Best GLBT UK Blog' category right at the bottom, along with three other guys.

Perhaps its because the blogging world is quite small, but it turns out that I've got reciprocal links to two of the other three finalists. For me of course, the big question is, am I going to vote for myself? "No" is the answer, of course not, it wouldn't seem like 'fair play' (I am British after all LOL). But in fact I've got a good reason to vote for one of the other blogs in my category. Back in August 2005, the author of 'Come into my world' sent me seven icons which he thought might be appropriate symbols for a Gay Banker.
The guy wanted me to choose either the piggy with the boy standing behind him, or the piggy who's mouth is being stuffed full of dollars. But of course, I chose the cute little pink piggy with the single dollar bill, and the rest is history!

Anyway, I was very grateful because I'm not very good with graphics, so 'Come into my world' is definitely going to get my vote :-).

Another business trip outside of the UK

Last year, on one of the business trips that I took outside of the UK, I took a photograph of an infamous gay establishment and posted it to see whether any readers could identify it. I was very impressed, because it only took a couple of hours for someone to work it out. Since then however, this blog has changed its focus a bit, so that I now tend to write less about the aspect of my life that might involve me visiting places like that!

Anyway, the reason for last Monday's post about long haul flights was that business class travel was in my mind as a result of another business trip. But can anyone identify where I was this time from the pic below? Needless to say, if you're one of the guys who I've actually told where I was going, then you can't play!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Long haul flights

Ever since airlines upgraded their business class cabins on long haul flights with seats that turn into completely flat beds, I've thought that business class had something significant to offer travellers beyond economy class. Even with flat beds though, I'd find it hard to get to sleep on a flight, except that I got a good tip from a colleague many years ago.

"Right GB, I'm going to go to sleep now, so I'll see you when we get back to London," says my colleague sitting next to me on a flight back from Singapore in the early 1990's.

"I don't know how you can sleep on planes," I reply, resigning myself to my usual fate of watching the drab in-flight entertainment.

"Actually it's simple," says my colleague with a glint in his eye, "I take drugs :-). Would you like some?"

Suddenly the conversation has become rather interesting! He hands me a small bottle and I look at the label.

"Drugs?" I say sounding a bit disappointed, "These are just sleeping pills aren't they?"

"Yes of course," laughs my colleague, "sleeping drugs! But I get my doctor to prescribe me some good ones. On long haul flights, they're just what I need to get a decent night's kip :-)."

Ever since then, I've also started using sleeping pills on long flights. So with the combination of flats beds plus my favourite drugs, these days I find that I really can arrive in a city after a long haul flight feeling reasonably refreshed.

The British Airways layout, which involves half the business class passengers facing the front and the other half facing the back of the plane, seems to work particularly well. I think it may even have been British Airways who introduced the first truly flat beds into a business class cabin. The problem is that I've become such a fan of the BA flat bed arrangement that a few years ago, I found myself paying for BA's business class when I needed long-haul flights to go on holiday to Australia with boyfriend number 1. And having done it once, paying for business class seats on long-haul flights has become a bit of a habit. Although I can afford to do this at the moment, I'm also aware that I may not always be so lucky. If I have to go back to economy class at some point, it'll be quite a shock.

However, not everyone I know approves of me flying business class when I'm paying for it:

"GB, can you pick up something for me the next time you're in New York?" asks boyfriend number 3 the last time I saw him.

"You should have asked me a couple of months ago," I reply, "because I was there in October."

"Well next time you're there then, I guess," says boyfriend number 3. "Or if you're feeling kind," he continues with a smirk in his voice, "perhaps you could find time just to hop over there and back for me?"

"If you need it urgently, why don't you get it sent? That would be much cheaper than my £2.5k air fare!"

"HOW MUCH?" asks boyfriend number 3 sounding shocked, "It doesn't cost anything like £2.5k to fly to New York and back."

"Errrr, I think you'll find it does, in business class at any rate!"

"Bloody hell! That's so extravagant GB!! Think what you could do with all that money. Right, the next time you go to travelling, I think you should go economy class and donate the rest of the money that you'd have spent on a business class fare to charity somehow."

The interesting thing is that boyfriend number 2 likes his comforts and has the opposite attitude. Having visited Argentina last year, we're now planning another holiday together for January. We'll both be travelling from the cities where we live and meeting up in South America again, so naturally I'm going to fly BA business class and boyfriend number 2 knows it.

"GB?" says boyfriend number 2 recently during one of our regular phone conversations, "have you got any air miles you could use to upgrade me to business class on my outbound and inbound flights?"

"That might work, I'm not sure," I reply. "I guess I could look into that for you."

"Well you're travelling business class from London, aren't you?"

"Errr yes, of course. But I was at least five years older than you before I started paying for business class flights for myself!"

"Awwww," moans boyfriend number 2, "do I have to wait that long?"

"Well, any flights that we ever travel together, we'll always be in the same cabin. I'll never travel business class and and put you in economy."

"Well OK. But, you know, business class is so much nicer ..."

So I'm now feeling a bit guilty. At present boyfriend number 2's tickets are provisionally booked in economy class. I don't think my air miles are any help. Does anyone think I should pay a few extra £k to upgrade boyfriend number 2 into business class?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Gay lifestyle magazines and comment moderation

AXM magazine cover Dec 2007
I hadn't bought a gay lifestyle magazine for a couple of years or more. But when London Preppy blogged that he'd written a short article which had been published in the December 2007 edition of AXM, I had a perfect excuse to go and buy a copy to see what they're like these days.

Of course, the original gay life style magazine in the UK is Gay Times. It's been going since 1984 and it's still around, although it now seems to have been re-branded "GT". In the United States they've got The Advocate which has been going for even longer, since the late 1960's in fact. In the mid 1990's I can remember a couple of others being launched in the UK, namely Attitude which is also still going, and Phase which isn't. I recall how the first edition of Phase was printed in quite a large font, for readability according to the editorial, but a lack of good writers with good ideas seemed far more plausible to me. No wonder it didn't last very long!

The first thing which struck me about AXM was how hard it was to find a copy. Eventually I managed to get one from the W.H.Smiths newsagent chain near the bank where I work, but that was the fourth place I tried. The second thing that struck me about AXM was how full of sort porn it was, in the sense of fit guys wearing few (if any) clothes. But perhaps that helps explain why it was difficult to find a copy!

Looking at the December 2007 edition, the front cover features a cute young blond guy wearing only some 2(x)ist undershorts, and the articles being advertised are about naked footballers and fight club sex fantasies. Being honest with myself, I admit that I do sometimes enjoy reading this kind of material :-), on a short flight or train journey perhaps when one doesn't want to concentrate on anything too taxing. But it's very superficial stuff.

Photo of London Preppy's article in AXM Dec 07And then there was London Preppy's short article, occupying the whole of page 56 exactly as he'd promised. It wasn't attributed to of course, but since he claims that it's his article on his blog, I suppose it's a reasonable assumption that London Preppy and the named author are one and the same. But are they? The reason I ask is because whereas London Preppy's blogging style has an enjoyable cocky confidence about it, the AXM article doesn't!

Perhaps the article's subject matter is the reason for this, because it's all about why male models are insecure. Although modelling isn't London Preppy's main job, with lines like " ... occasionally a photographer or somebody from a magazine will have a lapse of judgment and ask me to do a photoshoot or something ..." and "I know I'm not attractive enough to make a full-time career from modelling ...", he manages to illustrate a model's insecurities very well. But maybe he didn't mean to, because in his blog he says that he's not happy with AXM's subtitle to his article which says that he's insecure. However I reckon that the article's subtitle describes the article perfectly!

All this got me thinking about comment moderation. London Preppy's blog has comment moderation switched on, but so do a lot of other blogs I know, such as HBH's blog, DL's blog, Monty's blog, BV's blog, GBD's blog etc. Is comment moderation a sign of insecurity? When I first started blogging I didn't even allow comments at all, but after about six months I decided to allow comments with moderation. A few months later I realised that I'd hardly rejected a single comment (in fact I'm not sure if I rejected any comments), so I decided to ditch the moderation and try living it fast and loose for a change! But originally, I probably was a bit insecure about my blogging, and in that state of mind comment moderation was useful.

In spite of the occasional malicious or spiteful comment, and in spite of occasional comment spam, I do think that unmoderated comments are much better. One of the advantages of the digital age is the speed at which so many things are now possible, and without doubt comment moderation is an unnecessary brake on the evolution of our thoughts. On top of that, most of the time there's very little difference between deleting a published comment and using moderation to prevent the comment appearing in the first place. Inappropriate comments reflect badly on the comment author rather than the blog author. That applies to anonymous comments too, because even if we don't know who the anonymous commentator is, the commentator himself knows, and the bad karma from leaving bad comments will get him in the end!

So if any blog authors reading this still have comment moderation turned on, why don't you switch it off? Living life in the fast lane is much more fun :-)!